Psyllium or ispaghula is the common name used for several members of the plant genus Plantago whose seeds are used commercially for the production of mucilage.
Psyllium is mainly used as a dietary fiber to relieve symptoms of both constipation and mild diarrhea and occasionally as a food thickener. Research has also shown benefits in reducing blood cholesterol levels.
The plant from which the seeds are extracted tolerates dry and cool climates and is mainly cultivated in northern India. Psyllium products are marketed under several brand names, such as Metamucil, Fybogel, Konsyl, Fizolax, Megamucil, Supermucil and Lunelax.

Psyllium is mainly used as a dietary fiber, which is not absorbed by the small intestine. The purely mechanical action of psyllium mucilage is to absorb excess water while stimulating normal bowel elimination. Although its main use has been as a laxative, it is more appropriately termed a true dietary fiber and as such can help reduce the symptoms of both constipation and mild diarrhea. The laxative properties of psyllium are attributed to the fiber absorbing water and subsequently softening the stool. It however does increase flatulence to some degree.

As a thickener, it has been used in ice cream and frozen desserts. A 1.5% weight/volume ratio of psyllium mucilage exhibits binding properties that are superior to a 10% weight/volume ratio of starch mucilage. The viscosity of psyllium mucilage dispersions are relatively unaffected between temperatures of 20 and 50 °C (68 and 122 °F), by pH from 2 to 10 and by salt (sodium chloride) concentrations up to 0.15 M. These physical properties, along with its status as a natural dietary fiber, may lead to increased use of psyllium by the food-processing industry. Technical-grade psyllium has been used as a hydrocolloidal agent to improve water retention for newly seeded grass areas, and to improve transplanting success with woody plants.

Since psyllium husk-containing products are sometimes used as a source of dietary fiber, the intake of dietary fiber could hinder the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and proteins.

Gas or stomach cramping may also occur. It is recommended that this product be taken with a full glass of water to avoid it swelling in the throat and causing choking. Serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, seek medical attention if any signs of anaphylaxis arise, such as a rash, itching/swelling, dizziness or difficulty breathing.

Choking is a hazard if psyllium is taken without adequate water as it thickens in the throat. Cases of allergic reaction to psyllium-containing cereal have also been documented.

Mechanism of action

The soluble fiber in psyllium is polysaccharide arabinoxylan, a hemicellulose.
Psyllium is produced mainly for its mucilage content. The term mucilage describes a group of clear, colorless, gelling agents derived from plants. The mucilage obtained from psyllium comes from the seed coat. Mucilage is obtained by mechanical milling (i.e. grinding) of the outer layer of the seed. Mucilage yield amounts to about 25% (by weight) of the total seed yield. Plantago-seed mucilage is often referred to as husk, or psyllium husk. The milled seed mucilage is a white fibrous material that is hydrophilic, meaning that its molecular structure causes it to attract and bind to water. Upon absorbing water, the clear, colorless, mucilaginous gel that forms increases in volume by tenfold or more.

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